Can Indies Secure Prime Table Placements at Bookstores?

Can Indies Secure Prime Table Placements at Bookstores? 1024 576 Reader Views

by Susan Violante, Managing Editor

Every time I walk into a bookstore I am drawn by the tables, even if I am walking in knowing what I am looking for! Most, if not all, the books on the table are from big publishing companies, as they pay for placement. For indies, it is hard enough to convince a bookstore to take your book on consignment. Could it even be possible to get a good table placement for your book? Well, I also wondered, so I asked panelists at the 2022 Writer’s League of Texas Editors and Agents Conference last month and did my own research. This is what I found out:

  • Book Catalogs: Because of the limited shelf space, indie stores and bookstore chains pick the books very carefully from their preferred publisher houses’ catalogs. However, while the big chain stores get stocked by their corporate purchasing department, the indie stores are more flexible in their selections. But they both browse the catalogs from their distributors of choice. The good news for those who publish through Ingram Sparks and Print on Demand publishers that use Ingram as distributor, Ingram’s catalog is one of their distributors of choice.
  • The strategy then is to invest in a noticeable ad in Ingram’s catalog, research the best times to run it to make sure the timing matches the bookstores timing and run it! Following up with your local indie stores by mailing a book and press kit can’t hurt either. Becoming the store’s customer and getting to know the booksellers is also a good idea. But it is a great idea you also get to know the owner of the local indie bookstore and the manager of community affairs associate at chains.
  • Bookstores Programing. All bookstores have special events for local authors. It is up to the author to find out what their local stores offer and take advantage of their offerings. It is during those special events that we as Indies might be able to place our books on one of their tables!

If any of you are like me, you might have a hard time coming out of your shell and pitching yourself to bookstores. I hope you push yourself out there because your book and the message or story you are sharing are worth all your efforts to get it in the readers hands… the best placement of any bookstore.

  • Bob Gebelein

    Thank you, Maggie Smith – Your reviews are more impressive than mine, and I’m sure your award is, too. I am in the process of sending out ads to about 700 indie booksellers in the US. So far, I have sent out about 250 and have had 0 responses. I keep trying to write a better ad. – Bob Gebelein, DIRTY SCIENCE

  • Maggie Smith

    I have had very little luck with getting independent booktores to carry my debut despite positive reviews in Midwest Book Review, IBPA magazine, Kirkus and Foreword Review, winning a major book award, nd blurb endorsements from the like of Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Jamie Beck. I contacted over 100 of them via a personalized email and offered the return policy and discount (40%) that they require and I’m distributed by Ingram as you mention above. . My book (Truth and Other Lies takes place in Chicago so I hit those bookstores particularly hard. Out of 100, I think about 5 responded. Unless you live in a large metro area, there are likely only 1 or 2 bookstores in your immediate area so you can’t get much traction out of only one outlet. This is one big reason you don’t see well-written books published by smaller presses on any best-seller lists – they can’t compete with every small bookstore in the US putting that month’s favorites on their front shelves. The numbers are just too bent in favor of big publishers.

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